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Wed09182019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Beck, Cage the Elephant, Spoon and Starcrawler made a Night Running Tour stop at the FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine on Wednesday, July 17.

While the tour did not make a Coachella Valley stop, all of the performers are familiar with the area, having made appearances at Coachella, Desert Daze or Pappy and Harriet’s.

Spoon was its usual great self, flawlessly executing the band’s hits, with Britt Daniel jokingly praising Arrow de Wilde, lead singer of Starcrawler, for “finally calming down.” (However, her performance was anything but calm: Arrow de Wilde is a female version of Iggy Pop, someone who never stands still and runs around like she just escaped from an insane asylum—in a wonderful rock ’n’ roll sort of way. Unfortunately, I missed most of her performance.)

Spoon’s “The Way We Get By” is always a smash with audiences—and is even more popular after presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg shared on social media his piano version of the song. In early April 2019, Spoon shared the video on its social media with the caption: “So this guy can just do everyone’s job, huh.” That garnered a response from Buttigieg: “Hey it’s just the way I get by.”

Spoon is always fun, and “Knock Knock Knock” got the fans stirred up. “The Underdog” was also a hit with the audience, perhaps due to its placement in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, which exposed many to Spoon for the first time. Fans also got to hear a new song, “No Bullets Spent,” on new compilation release Everything Hits at Once: The Best of Spoon. The song is a reflection of our time, as Daniel sings, “Don’t know what you got ’til you’re 22. Got a mortgage hung around your neck. What we need now is an accident. No one to blame and no bullets spent.”

Cage the Elephant’s performance started with lead guitarist Brad Shultz playing offstage as his brother, lead vocalist Matt Shultz, walked onstage in a hyper-controlled motion, subverting in a way the pedestrian task of walking on to a stage—but everything Cage the Elephant does is destabilizing yet contagious.

This was my first time seeing Cage the Elephant, and I became entranced by how Matt Shultz moved about and sang at the same time. As Matt shed layers of his outer skin, it became apparent he was here to rock your heart out, and the nearly 80-minute set ran at a frantic pace. The only pauses were when Matt or Brad went into the audience to interact with the cell-phone-obsessed crowd. Cage the Elephant played the hits, starting with “Cry Baby” and then following up with flames burning from the back of the stage for “Broken Boy.” The performance also included the cynical and sad joy that is “Ready to Let Go”: “We met up; we broke bread. I was blue; your dress was red; ain’t it strange? We both knew this day was coming.”

At one point, Matt walked into the crowd with what appeared to be a battery-powered LED light with a chicken leg or a banana tied to it (it was too dark to tell); he took the occasional bite. Of course, Cage the Elephant played mega hit “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” He acknowledged the women in the audience by saying, “It’s not the journey; it’s the destination. Thank you, ladies.” A young woman next to me jumped up and yelled: “I want to make out with you!”

Sometimes lyrics connect and allow people to feel and pause and reflect, like the beginning verse of  “Teeth”: “Electrified harmonious, I think I’ll take it out to the streets. Will someone please help me? Call the doctor, but don’t call the police.” It was the best performance I have seen all year by a recording artist that got its start in the 21st century—but the headliner had yet to perform.

Beck walked onstage to cheers. “What’s going on this beautiful evening?” he asked as he led with his classic “Loser,” following up with fan favorite “The New Pollution.”

Beck asked the audience, “Any güeros out there?” (“Beck, it’s Irvine!” I mentally responded, with a chuckle.) Beck added: “This is a story about growing up in Boyle heights. This is about some of the people were I grew up,” introducing “¿Qué onda Güero?”

A potential jam-band session was in the mist, but Beck pivoted when the lyrics were not coming out of his mouth correctly. “I think someone is smoking something up here—makes you forget lyrics. Lyrics fighting for a lost cause,” he said as the attempted improvisation fizzled.

Ending with “E-Pro,” Beck said, “Órale,” and walked off the stage. He soon returned and stated, “Let me take you down,” with his encore of “Where It’s At.”

After sitting down and pointing out friends in the audience, Beck quipped: “We are on a night ride. Who do we have here?” Then Matt Shultz walked onstage wearing a red silk-like outfit with a matching red fan. Beck and Matt performed their collaborative dub-step reggae song, “Night Running”—which, of course, shares the name with this tour.

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Coachella Day 3 started off on a much hotter note—but that did not diminish the excitement of festival-goers. After all, this was the last day of the festival, so it was time to savor every moment.

Early in the afternoon, the Mojave tent hosted the Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans. At the same time, Trombone Shorty was playing on the Main stage, so it sounded like New Orleans at Mardi Gras.

As Trombone Shorty finished up, it was time for Fishbone. The band started off a high-energy set with “Party at Ground Zero”—and when the song picked up, so did the mosh pit. The band then broke into “Fat Chicks/Bustin’ Loose.” The funk/punk/reggae/ska legends have never received the respect they’ve deserved, but they had some big-name fans on this day: Later in the set, Andre 3000 and Big Boi from Outkast showed up in the VIP aisle to catch the band. During “Everyday Sunshine,” Angelo Moore hopped over the barrier to go crowd surfing. Fishbone ended the set with “Sunless Saturday.”

During Fishbone’s set, the Coachella app notified attendees that Chance the Rapper—scheduled for the Main stage after Fishbone—would not be performing. Attendees passed the news to each other, though many fans seemed clueless as they gathered.

The 1975, one of the more anticipated up-and-coming acts, performed on the Outdoor stage late in the afternoon, right as Zoe was scheduled to go on the Main stage. The 1975’s sound seemed straight out of the 1980s at times, with a little bit of modern pop thrown in. While some songs were catchy, others were downright cheesy—even featuring Kenny G-style saxophones.

One highlight of the afternoon/early evening, despite the heat, was the performance by Superchunk in the Gobi tent. The indie-rock band from the era of Fugazi and the Pixies put on an electrifying performance, proving the members can still perform with the best of them.

As the sun was going down, the reunited Neutral Milk Hotel took the Outdoor stage. Frontman Jeff Mangum came out and played a song by himself before he was joined by the rest of band. He has become notorious for asking people not to photograph him, and when he made the request on Sunday for attendees to put their cell phones and cameras away, there were some cheers—but some took photos anyway. Some of the songs were great, but the vibe was ruined whenever the band would leave the stage for Mangum to play solo. While some attendees people were into it, I found it was time to move on to something more lively: The Toy Dolls in the Gobi.

The English punk-rock band is known for their humorous shows, and The Toy Dolls were indeed a sight to see. Guitarist Michael Algar and bassist Tom Blyth would strut in opposite directions while playing; Blyth at one point suffered through some technical issues with his bass. Algar joked, “Sorry, we’re English.” The mixture of confetti, funny sunglasses and humor along with the Oi! punk led even some of the hipsters in the Gobi to get down with it.

As Lana Del Rey was finishing her set on the Outdoor stage, Beck took the Main stage. He opened with a rocking performance of “Blue Moon,” and then followed with “Loser,” his breakout single from 1993.

When Motörhead took the stage in the Mojave (shortly before Arcade Fire took the Main stage), it was clear that frontman Lemmy Kilmister is, in some ways, not the same. He’s always been a Jack Daniels-drinking, Marlboro-smoking ironman who would tell you, “Don’t do heroin; do speed instead.” He’s recently been battling just to stay alive, having a pacemaker installed and trying to get his diabetes under control; it was amazing he was even able to get onstage. However, when he did, he proved that he remains the same in one way: He rocked! “We are Motörhead, and we play rock ’n’ roll,” he said before the band tore into the opening song, “Damage Case.” Their performances of “Over the Top” and “Rock It” were top-notch and proved that while Lemmy might be old, he’s still “God” as far as his fans go. At the end of the set, a huge circle pit started on the left side of the stage as special guest Slash joined the boys for “Ace of Spades,” and the finishing number, “Overkill.”

It was difficult to adjust to Arcade Fire after experiencing Motörhead. When Motörhead finished, Arcade Fire was already about five songs into the set; “The Suburbs” was playing as I approached the Main stage. After “Reflektor,” the group performed a cover of Prince’s “Controversy” with Beck, and the group finished with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band joining them for “Wake Up.”

Arcade Fire, in a way, got a big boost from Coachella in 2005. Win Butler talked about how back then, the band’s manager was also their road crew, and all their equipment was stored in sleeping bags or cardboard boxes. Now, they are headliners.

Who knows which up-and-coming bands that played in the smaller tents and in earlier time slots at Coachella 2014 will one day headline the festival? Stay tuned to find out.

Scroll down to see a photo gallery. Photos by Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Reviews